Transfer center tech raises sales for Banner Health by $26.4 million

  • Published | 04 March 2020
The health system reports that the number of referrals expanded by 16.5% last year, adding 3,308 more patients by February 2020, compared to the previous year.

Banner Health has its headquarters in Arizona and is one of the country's largest public health systems. The complex system operates in 28 acute-care hospitals and manages them. It also has a Banner Health Network, an accountable care organization (ACO) composed of doctors, hospitals, and local community care services. It also operates Banner University Pharmacy, trained and working groups of doctors, long-term care facilities, ambulatory surgery centers and a number of other programs.

Banner Health maintains about 70,000 referrals per year, including about 34,000 incoming patients from hospitals and competitors in the region. However, moving volume growth since 2016 had tended to decline from 13.7% in 2018 to 2.4%. Staff observed this rising amount of information and set out to find its causes and ways of reversing the trend.

Charley Larsen, senior RN manager at Banner Health Transfer Services said we noticed that transfers took more than three hours–198 minutes–on average due to the lack of consistent procedures and communication difficulties. This included multiple phone calls between our physicians until the right physician provided the necessary information to authorize the admission at the appropriate facility.

The referring physician could have called a competitor during that prolonged waiting period, and instead diverted a patient there, which Banner also discovered occurred. Employees estimate that Banner lost 600 patients per month to rivals in 2018 due in part to slow transfer approvals and admissions, which created a challenging process.

When Banner Health participated with the Federal Emergency Management Association in a six hour disaster preparedness exercise, the need for a streamlined, structured transfer process was further driven home. Banner and other hospitals in the Phoenix area have simulated their patients being evacuated to other facilities amid a natural disaster.

Following extensive research, the Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jason Brown and Larsen of Banner Health Transfer Services co-wrote a 45-page white paper on the value of transfer services and the multimillion-dollar financial impact of losing hundreds of transfers from the Banner network.

An important element of the project was to update Banner's infrastructure to a new transfer-center solution. The legacy technology, apart from the lack of reporting capabilities, was difficult to use and was not designed to support successful transfer center operations.

Banner Health wanted to implement the new transfer-center system as soon as possible due to the current number and revenue losses of the patients. Despite its introduction during the winter holiday season and the simultaneous launch of a separate EHR remote hosting project, Banner Health was able to live with Central Logic in January 2019, a month earlier than normal for a comparable network of the size and scope of Banner Health.

Our two transition center teams use the approach, one for Arizona, and the other for Western Region facilities. Banner Health started this program with 75 staff, but expanded to over 400 over the year due to the significant rise in the number of patients, but also due to our team members partnered with community hospitals and doctors to educate them about our new capacities.